Thursday, February 15, 2007

Being There

From Slate, a little commentary from economist Tim Harford, about how people travel more than ever, even though technology connects us all. That is an interesting paradox, whether you think about it in the macro sense (nations needing to have face-to-face talks) or the micro sense (I still find tremendous value in being in the same room as the people with whom I work closely, even if it's only once in a while).

For some kinds of communication distance is no object -- I can send you specifications and we can go through the document page by page over the phone or in an online conference and that really gets the job done. But I'm not sure I'd want to deliver a pitch for a multi-million dollar proposal from afar -- I need to see that fleeting expression of happiness or disdain, pick up that slight throat clearing you do when I mention how I plan to market what I'm doing. Even with the best videoconferencing systems on the fattest pipes, there's a delay, a fuzziness to the conversation that makes those nuances hard to catch.

The moral of this story? Pick the right communication tool for the job, and realize that sometimes it's an airplane.

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